Many an eyebrow was raised in the summer when Manchester City parted with the best part of £30m to sign the relatively unknown Brazilian Fernandinho from Shaktar Donetsk. A man who at the age of 28 had only earned 5 caps for his country and hadn’t been tested at the very highest level. It’s fair to say in the early stages of the season, we were none the wiser as to how talented he really was.
Fast forward to January 2014 and Man City sit comfortably in 2nd place in the league, with a place in the Champions League knockout stage confirmed for the 1st time in the club’s history. Their early season problems away from home under Manuel Pellegrini seem to be a thing of the past and the City juggernaut looks like running over any team that gets in their way. Suddenly Man City look like the team to beat, but why?
Some will point to Sergio Aguero, but he has been missing from City’s impressive run of results over Christmas. There’s no doubt the return to form of Joe Hart has been a factor, as has the presence of an injury free Vincent Kompany and the quick adoption of English football by Alvaro Negredo. However, it has been the engine room of Fernandinho alongside Yaya Toure that has really stood out.
We all know Yaya Toure is a beast of a player. He literally can do it all and while some players are likened to a finely tuned Rolls Royce, Toure is a tank with all the bells and whistles you need. He has hit double figures from midfield and continues to add to his own personal highlight reel of stunning freekicks, something no one knew he was capable of. Despite all of this, it has been his partnership with Fernandinho which has impressed me the most, with both continuing to grow in stature.
Most teams these days play with three men in the middle of the park, with one being a conventional defensive midfielder. With these two, City have been able to play with just two, such is their ability and dominance. They seem to be capable of doing the job of three men with relative ease, combining powerful attacking play and goals with destructive defensive work and protection. Their talents allow the likes of Jesus Navas to play wide, Samir Nasri to play anywhere and perhaps most importantly allows City the rare luxury of two strikers on the pitch.
This attacking mentality has reaped it’s rewards as City continue to smash goal scoring records without a care in the world. I’m sure there won’t be many teams in modern times to be able to boast putting 6 goals past both Arsenal AND Tottenham. The bonus for Pellegrini is that if they have to play more defensive to protect a result, they have hardworking players like James Milner, Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell waiting for their chance.
So it turns out that the often derided Jamie Redknapp was right when he picked out Fernandinho as ‘one to watch.’ His partnership with Yaya Toure has grown to be a formidable one and it’s hard to see anyone stopping Man City’s drive to the Premier League title whilst those two are firing on all cylinders.